By Conor Hooley
The only way that Emcee Evolution’s Street Corner Poet could be more backpacker-friendly is if it was released on Rawkus Records. In 1997. The album spends most of its time – both in beats and rhymes – treading clichéd waters. And yet, it succeeds exactly because it does so. Rather, it does it so well.
The modern boom-bap of J-Dilla and 9th Wonder is all over Street Corner Poet: sometimes choppy, sometimes bouncy, always soulful. The album’s production, handled primarily by DJ Kaotic and Evolution himself, recalls their work, but doesn’t merely rehash it. And the inspired sampling is the cherry on top – look no further than the standout track “Ode to Hip-Hop,” produced by Wizard, which features a euphoric saxophone loop so good you’d swear it was stolen from Pete Rock.
Evolution sounds right at home lyrically, delivering all the braggadocio, storytelling and sacrosanct hip-hop worship that one could ever ask for. The Fort Collins-based rapper’s flow, cadence and smartass swagger is quite similar to Midwest underground hero and fellow producer/ MC Blueprint, but with a smoother, less nasal delivery. With all due respect to “Printmatic,” that’s a good thing.
Street Corner Poet is no-nonsense boombap, recalling those idyllic mid-‘90s days when Nas was hip-hop’s savior, Craig Mack was relevant
and Wu-Wear was acceptable in public. Of course, none of those things were ever actually true, but that residual zeitgeist still lingers – and in the case of Street Corner Poet, can still inspire great music.